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30, November 2023

A focus on McLaren Vale Fiano

An ancient white grape variety originating from the Campania region of southern Italy, Fiano has found its second home in the McLaren Vale Wine Region. This alluring grape caught the attention of McLaren Vale winemakers 20 years ago, who were first to plant it in Australia, recognising its ability to produce exceptional crisp wines that reflect our region's unique terroir. Well-suited to our coastal Mediterranean-like climate, Fiano is now McLaren Vale's third-most widely planted white grape variety at approximately 45 hectares.

McLaren Vale's winemakers are known for their innovative spirit and willingness to experiment. They embrace the challenge of working with emerging varieties, pushing the boundaries and showcasing their potential. Their passion and expertise truly shine through in each and every bottle.

One of the distinctive features of Fiano is its ability to retain acidity even in warm climates. This natural acidity gives McLaren Vale Fiano a vibrant and refreshing quality, balancing the fruit flavours and creating a harmonious palate. The wines often have a rich and luscious texture, with a hint of nuttiness that adds further interest to the overall profile.

The vast and varied soil types of the McLaren Vale Wine Region play a significant role in shaping the character of Fiano wines. Our region's ancient soils, consisting of a mix of sand, clay, and limestone, contribute to the wine's mineral complexity. These soils, combined with the unique microclimates found in the McLaren Vale Wine Region, impart a distinct sense of place to the wines, reflecting our region's terroir and adding depth to the flavour profile.

Fiano is a versatile wine that pairs well with a variety of dishes. Its vibrant acidity and rich texture make it an excellent companion for seafood, particularly grilled prawns, scallops, and lobster. The wine's aromatic qualities also make it a great match for Mediterranean-inspired dishes, such as roasted chicken with lemon and herbs or grilled vegetables with olive oil and herbs.

Can McLaren Vale Fiano be aged?

McLaren Vale Winemaker Alex Sherrah of Sherrah Wines offers his thoughts on the ageability of Fiano:

"Fiano is definitely made to be aged, it can be drunk young like Riesling and Semillon, but with its high acidity (often higher than Riesling) it is a great wine to cellar.

Fiano has very high natural acidity which is what makes its so suitable to our warm Mediterranean like climate, in its youth this acidity is balanced by its inherent texture. Thick skins and tight bunches give great texture and fruit weight to balance the high acidity when young.

As it ages this acidity keeps the wine very fresh for a long time, and the fruit weight and texture get more complex as they all integrate over time.
Fiano does not tend to get the ‘kerosene’ character that is often associated with describing aged Riesling, it tends more towards the nutty, toasted characters and descriptors.

I was lucky enough to have one of the original Coriole 2005 bottles (Australia's first bottling of Fiano). We opened this at one of the McLaren Vale Wine Show Judges dinners a few years ago when the wine was about 16 years old. It was amazingly fresh, and still had bright fruit characters as well as the enhanced texture and mouthfeel.

As production is still very low, and demand is high, most producers run out of ‘current’ release Fiano just as it is coming together and really starting to opening up. It drinks beautifully when young, but also rewards with cellaring.

As Fiano is still so young in Australia we have yet to see how long it can age for. With the addition of a screw cap the wines will last indefinitely. If possible keep a stash and open over the next 5-8 years, but if possible hide some up the back of the cellar and I’m sure we will see some real gems emerging in decades to come."

Notable producers of Fiano in McLaren Vale include:

Coriole, d'Arenberg, Beresford Estate, Chalk Hill Wines, Hugo Wines, Olivers Taranga, Pannell Enoteca, Richard Hamilton Wines, Sherrah Wines and Zerella.

Image: Fiano Grapes by Sherrah Wines

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